New HIV infections among adolescents projected to rise by nearly 60 per cent by 2030 if progress stalls – UNICEF

Urgent action needed to improve HIV prevention and treatment for young people 

NEW YORK/JOHANNESBURG/ADDIS ABABA 1 December 2016 – New HIV infections among adolescents are projected to rise from 250,000 in 2015 to nearly 400,000 annually by 2030 if progress in reaching adolescents stalls, according to a new report released by UNICEF today. 

“The world has made tremendous progress in the global effort to end AIDS, but the fight is far from over – especially for children and adolescents,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.  “Every two minutes, another adolescent – most likely a girl – will be infected with HIV. If we want to end AIDS, we need to recapture the urgency this issue deserves — and redouble our efforts to reach every child and every adolescent.” 

AIDS remains a leading cause of death among adolescents, claiming the lives of 41,000 adolescents aged 10-19 in 2015, according to the 7th Stocktaking Report on Children and AIDS: For Every Child: End AIDS.

The report proposes strategies for accelerating progress in preventing HIV among adolescents and treating those who are already infected. These include:

·         Investing in innovation including in locally grown solutions.

·         Strengthening data collection.

·         Ending gender discrimination including gender-based violence and countering stigma.

·         Prioritising efforts to address adolescents’ vulnerabilities by providing combination prevention efforts including pre-exposure prophylaxis, cash transfers and comprehensive sexuality education.

Globally there were nearly 2 million adolescents aged 10 -19 living with HIV in 2015. In sub-Saharan Africa, the region most impacted by HIV, girls accounted for three out of every four new infections among adolescents aged 15-19.

Other findings in the report include:

·         Remarkable progress has been made in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Globally, 1.6 million new infections among children were averted between 2000 and 2015.

·         1.1 million children, adolescents and women were newly infected in 2015.

·         Children aged 0–4 living with HIV face the highest risk of AIDS-related deaths, compared with all other age groups, and they are often diagnosed and treated too late. Only half of the babies born to HIV-positive mothers receive an HIV test in their first two months, and the average age that treatment begins among children with vertically acquired HIV in sub-Saharan Africa is nearly 4 years old.

Despite progress in averting new infections and reducing deaths, funding for the AIDS response has declined since 2014, UNICEF said. 

Haregua Askale stands in her traditional bar waiting for customers

In Ethiopia, the prevalence of HIV is low compared to other African countries. In 2011, 1.5 per cent of the population between the ages of 15 and 49 was HIV positive. However, taking into account the country’s large and growing population, the absolute number of people infected with HIV is high. By the end of 2015, the estimated number of people living with HIV was 740,000 including 84,000 children under the age of 15 years.

The 2011 Ethiopian Demographic Health Survey (EDHS) has provided evidence that the epidemic continues to be highly heterogeneous by region, ranging from the lowest (0.9 per cent) in SNNPR to the highest (6.5 per cent) in Gambella. The survey also indicates disparity by gender (1.9 per cent) for adult women whereas (1.0 per cent) for adult men. HIV prevalence is also increasingly concentrated in large urban areas and along major transport corridors. According to the 2015 Ethiopia Public Health Institute (EPHI) study, 67 per cent of people living with HIV reside in urban areas. 

Young people are often at a greater risk of infection. They may have shorter relationships and more partners, or engage in risky sexual practices. Also, girls are at a high risk of HIV infection due to gender-based inequality and partner violence.

Over the last ten years, Ethiopia has dramatically reduced new infections and AIDS related deaths by more than 50 per cent (UNAIDS 2015). As part of the global target to end AIDS by 2030, UNAIDS sets new targets for 2020 referred to as 90:90:90 – which implies reaching- 90 per cent of HIV testing, 90 per cent of Antiretroviral Treatment and 90 per cent of reducing viral load. By the end of 2015, Ethiopia had already enabled more than 60 per cent of the people living with HIV to know their status and 52 per cent, or more than 386,000 of people living with HIV to receive Antiretroviral Treatment (Global AIDS Response Progress Reporting ETHIOPIA: 2015 REPORT).

The effort to eliminate mother-to-child transmission is also on track, whereby, 67 per cent of HIV-positive pregnant women access and receive Antiretroviral Treatment to reduce the risk of mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy and delivery (EPHI-2015).

Ensuring every child is accounted for and no one is left behind in Ethiopia

By Hannah Godefa

On August 6th, I was fortunate to be a part of a campaign in Ethiopia when the establishment of the Vital Events Registration Agency (VERA) kicked off throughout the country.

VERA is an incredibly important institution for individuals, societies and government. For individuals, registration can be used as legal documents and proof for identification purposes. Information complied from these areas are then needed for admin applications like public health programmes and the electoral roll.

On the first day of the campaign, I visited the Gulele Sub City, Woreda 9 VERA team. UNICEF supports the campaign to ensure all resources needed for registration like registry, certificates, awareness creation, materials and logistics make it to all regions, all the way to the lowest levels of administration.

Vital events registration kicks off in Ethiopia

This process is incredibly important because it will ensure that every child will be accounted from the earliest days of life. This means big advancements for accountability when it comes to harmful traditional practices including child marriage, as every individual will have a marriage certificate with the new system from VERA. It will also make it easier for government, non-profit and civil society partners to identify when these practices are occurring.

Birth registration is the first recognition of a child’s existence by the state. Where births remain unregistered, there is an implication that these children are not recognized as persons before the law. The absence of the system of birth registration results in the violation of children’s rights to name and nationality; to protection from abuse, neglect, and exploitation, including early marriage, child labour  and trafficking; to basic social services, including education and health; and the personal rights of orphans and other vulnerable children.

Currently, birth, death, marriage and divorce will be kept recorded from the kebele civil status office to the federal level, so that there is less room for discrepancies and human rights crime.

Participating in the registration process was an incredibly humbling and powerful experience for me, and I am very excited to see how UNICEF will work with VERA and local partners to ensure that every child is accounted for, and no one is left behind.

UNICEF Appoints Thomas “Tommy T” Gobena as its National Ambassador to Ethiopia

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14 October, 2015, Addis Ababa: Today, UNICEF appointed Thomas Gobena (commonly known as Tommy T) as its National Ambassador to Ethiopia at a signing ceremony held in its premises. The ceremony was attended by Ms. Patrizia DiGiovanni, Officer in Charge, UNICEF Ethiopia, members of the media and UNICEF staff. A U.S. Citizen with Ethiopian descent, Tommy moved to Washington D.C. at the age of sixteen, and is a bassist for Gogol Bordello- a Gypsy punk band – since 2006. Tommy T. has been an advocate for UNICEF’s work since 2014 and is keen on empowering youth. Thus, he has participated in a Public Service Announcement (PSA) on HIV/AIDS awareness entitled “your life; your decision” produced by UNICEF in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health and UNAIDS, which has been appreciated by the public.

Speaking of his new title as an Ambassador, Tommy said, “I hope I will be an Ambassador who will awaken hope, inspire action, and nurture kindness and respect to all. I hope with all my heart that my modest contribution will be inspiring to as many youth as possible because inspiration  fuels hope.” Patrizia DiGiovanni, Officer in Charge, UNICEF Ethiopia on her part said, “Tommy’s ambassadorship has come at a time when UNICEF Ethiopia is seeking to engage with a wide range of the diaspora groups to get their understanding and support for children’s issues in Ethiopia. Reaching out to this group is critical as they can relay information fast to their communities and have also a strong awareness raising capacity.”

Tommy T deliberating a speech at the ambassadorship signing ceremonyTommy has visited several youth and sport for development programmes in Addis, Oromia and SNNP regions and has encouraged young people to peruse their dreams. Recently, he had the opportunity to visit a water well drilling UNICEF-supported programme in Dobi kebele (sub-district), 84 km North from Samara in the Afar Region and interacted with beneficiaries.

Globally, Tommy has participated in the UNICEF-led #IMAGINE project, which aims to draw attention to the challenges children face around the world, by allowing people to record their own version of “Imagine”, John Lennon’s iconic song. In addition, Tommy attended the #Imagine launching event together with world renowned celebrities and UNICEF goodwill ambassadors including Katy Perry, Angélique Kidjo and others while celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC@25). See link: http://bit.ly/1jYtjBf

Currently, Tommy is setting up an entertainment company in Ethiopia and is keen to engage further with the public using music to get positive messaging across to the general population in Ethiopia and abroad.

Tommy is following in the footsteps of Aster Awoke, Abelone Melesse and Hannah Godefa as UNICEF National Ambassadors by demonstrating an outstanding commitment and dedication in promoting the rights of women and children’s issues over time.

Men to protect women from any form of violence says Aster Aweke

By Wossen Mulatu

11 September 2015: On Ethiopian New Year’s Eve, Aster Aweke, one of Ethiopia’s greatest music icon, and UNICEF National Ambassador to Ethiopia, delivered a strong message on girls’ and women empowerment to thousands of fans gathered at her concert in Ghion Hotel, Addis Ababa.

“My wish for the new year is for girls to succeed in their education and reach their full potential equally as boys,” said Aster during her performance. “All of you men have the responsibility to protect women from violence. Please do not standby and keep silent when you see women being abused and their rights violated because they are your mothers and your sisters and you should protect them!”

asterHer messages on girls’ empowerment comes at a right time when the Government of Ethiopia took a heroic step by making a ground-breaking commitment to end Harmful Traditional Practices (HTPs) including child, early and forced marriage and Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C) in the country by 2025. To this end, UNICEF and its partners are supporting the Government to improve the quality of lives of Ethiopian girls and women and, ultimately, to accelerate progress for the country at large. In addition, this feeds into the proposed Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls, as part of the Post-2015 development agenda.

Since her appointment as a national ambassador in 2010, Aster has supported different UNICEF activities and campaigns that benefit the women and children of Ethiopia by participating in high-level meetings and campaigns.

Nearly 50 million lives saved since 2000; millions more can be saved by 2030: UNICEF

New-born shows an improving health status after being treated at Yekatit 12 Hospital Medical College, in Neonatal intensive care unit.
Premature newborn health is improving after being treated at Yekatit 12 Hospital Medical College, in Neonatal intensive care unit. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Mersha

NEW YORK/Addis Ababa, 9 September 2015 – The rate of decline in mortality among the world’s youngest children has more than doubled over a generation, and an additional 38 million lives could be saved by 2030 if progress accelerates further, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) world leaders are set to approve later this month.

Since 2000, when governments committed to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the lives of 48 million children under the age of five have been saved. This remarkable progress is the result of sustained action by leaders – to make saving children’s lives a policy and a political priority, to improve and use data about child survival, and to scale up proven interventions.

The number of children who die from mostly preventable causes before they turn five now stands at 5.9 million a year – a 53 per cent drop since 1990. At 3.9 percent the global annual rate of reduction of under-five mortality between 2000 and 2015 was more than twice as high as what it was in the 1990s.

Some of the world’s poorest countries have demonstrated that substantial reductions in child mortality can be achieved despite formidable obstacles:

  • 24 out of 81 low- and lower-middle income countries, including Cambodia, Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Uganda, achieved the MDG of reducing the under-five mortality rate by two-thirds or more.[1]
  • Between 2000 and 2015, twenty-one sub-Saharan African countries reversed a rising mortality trend or at least tripled their pace of progress compared to the 1990s.

Low income countries are: Cambodia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Rwanda, Uganda, and the United Republic of Tanzania. Lower-middle income countries are: Armenia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Egypt, El Salvador, Georgia, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan; Nicaragua; Timor-Leste; Yemen.

To reiterate the agenda, A Call to Action Summit took place from 27-28 August 2015 in New Delhi, India with the aim of ending preventable deaths of children and mothers by 2035. This was a prelude to the United Nations Summit for the adoption of post-2015 development agenda that will be held as a high-level plenary meeting of the UN General Assembly in September 2015.The two-day Leadership Summit was a confluence of health ministers from over 10 priority countries that committed to the global Call to Action for Child Survival in June 2012 including Ethiopia.

At the Summit, Ethiopia was represented by His Excellency Dr. Kesetebirhan Admasu accompanied by the technical team, including representatives from CSOs. In addition, Abelone Melese, UNICEF National Ambassador to Ethiopia, deliberated a speech and recited two songs entitled, “Welaj Enat” and “Happy Birthdays” to the participants of the Summit.

Dr. Kesete presented the progress accomplished by the Government of Ethiopia during the last decade and the new priorities- Ensuring “Quality” & Equity” in health care. He said, “The Government of Ethiopia is committed to end preventable maternal and child deaths. This will be possible through unwavering political commitment, community ownership, and universal health

coverage of high impact interventions. To consolidate the gains that were made during the MDGs and accelerate the progress towards the noble cause of ending preventable maternal and child deaths, the Ministry of Health has developed a 5-year-Health Sector Transformation Plan (HSTP) 2015-2020. The plan has set out ambitious goals to be achieved in this period. I would like to state four of the transformational agendas that were set out in this plan. Ensuring “Quality” & Equity” in health care: Equity and quality are the core goals of the health sector transformation plan, which aspires to build a high performing health system”.

UNICEF will continue to support the Government of Ethiopia to sustain the gains made on Child Survival and ensure that the unfinished business of neonatal and maternal mortality are rapidly addressed.

“Saving the lives of millions of children in urban and rural settings, in wealthy and poor countries, is one of the first great achievements of the new millennium — and one of the biggest challenges of the next 15 years is to further accelerate this progress” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Yoka Brandt. “The data tell us that millions of children do not have to die — if we focus greater effort on reaching every child.”

Simple, high-impact, cost effective solutions that contributed to this dramatic reduction of under-five deaths include skilled antenatal, delivery and postnatal care; breastfeeding; immunization; insecticide-treated mosquito nets; improved water and sanitation; oral rehydration therapy for diarrhoea; antibiotics for pneumonia; nutritional supplements and therapeutic foods.

Despite this impressive progress, the world has not met the MDG target of reducing under-five mortality by two-thirds.

Between 1990 and the end of 2015, an estimated 236 million children will have died from mostly preventable causes before turning five. Today, leading causes of under-five deaths include prematurity; pneumonia; complications during labour and delivery; diarrhoea; and malaria. Under-nutrition contributes to nearly half of all under-five deaths.

The SDGs challenge countries to significantly increase their efforts to bring rates of under-five mortality down to 25 deaths (or fewer) per 1,000 live births by 2030. By picking up the pace, especially in countries that are lagging, the world stands to save the lives of 38 million more children under the age of five.

About A Promise Renewed

Since its initiation in 2012, A Promise Renewed has focused on promoting the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4 of reducing the under-five mortality rate by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015, and continuing the effort until no child or mother dies from preventable causes. Partners that support A Promise Renewed have committed to five priority actions:

  1. Increasing efforts in the countries facing the greatest challenges on under-five mortality;
  2. Scaling up access to underserved populations everywhere;
  3. Addressing the causes that account for the majority of under-five deaths;
  4. Increasing emphasis on the underlying drivers of child mortality, such as women’s education and empowerment;
  5. Rallying around a shared goal and using common metrics to track progress.

Download the report

Media Get-Together with UNICEF National Ambassadors -Abelone Melesse and Hannah Godefa

By Wossen Mulatu

Hannah Godefa and Abelone Melesse
Media meets UNICEF Ethiopia National Ambassadors-Hannah Godefa and Abelone Melesse on Friday, 24 July 2015 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Sewunet

ADDIS ABABA, 24 July 2015 Today, UNICEF’s Media and External Relations Section has organised the third media get-together with UNICEF National Ambassadors to Ethiopia – Hannah Godefa and Abelone Melesse. Also present on the occasion as guests of honour were the fathers of Abelone and Hannah- Ato Solomon Melesse and Ato Godefa Assegahen respectively.

Since their appointment as UNICEF National Ambassadors, Hannah and Abelone have shown a true commitment to the issues of women and children by involving in different advocacy activities both in Ethiopia and abroad. At the media get- together, both Hannah and Abelone shared their current activities in relation to the rights of women and children including their recent field visit to Amhara region to see UNICEF- supported child protection and health activities.

At the occasion, the media had the opportunity to ask questions to Abelone and Hannah on their role as ambassadors, their inspiration and their future plan. The media also forwarded their questions to their fathers on how they have raised their daughters and how they support them.

Speaking of her visit to Amhara region, Hannah said the most fulfilling part of her visit was the interaction she had with the women and children in the community. “I have talked to women who were faced with child marriage instead of going to school- it’s really heartbreaking.”

Seventeen year old Hannah became a UNICEF National Ambassador in 2013. This year, Hannah has participated at the World Education Forum 2015 (WEF) from 19 to 22 May in the city of Incheon, Republic of Korea. Hannah joined the “Leaving no one behind – how education can drive inclusive development?” panel co-hosted by the UNICEF Executive Director and David McKenzie of CNN. On 16 June, Hannah became a panelist or the 29th session of the Human Rights Council’s panel discussion on girls’ education held in Geneva.

Abelone on her part said, “My visit to Dera woreda in Amhara region has been an eye opener to see the progress made in the health sector in Ethiopia. I have witnessed how the health extension workers reach the most vulnerable population through promotive, preventive and basic curative health and nutrition services. My goal is to advocate especially for maternal health though my songs as a rap singer.”

Nineteen year old young rap star Abelone Melesse became a UNICEF National Ambassador to Ethiopia in 2014. This year, Abelone has attended a number of meetings and conferences in her new capacity as an Ambassador. On International Women’s Day, Abelone was invited by Ethiopian Women’s Association in Norway joined by high level Norwegian politicians where she had the opportunity to deliberate a speech and perform her songs on behalf of the women in Norway and in Ethiopia. Abelone also officially released her new single entitled “Jewels of the world” – a song which she has dedicated to UNICEF at the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The song written by Abelone herself has received more than 10,000 views on Youtube 7,150 views on Facebook  and 70,106 views on DireTube.

Note to the media

How can UNICEF support the media? Our UNICEF Ethiopia website has many different resources, including: publications, photos, press releases, speeches, contact information, guidelines and other information useful for the media. In addition, we are present in many socialmedia platforms such as FacebookTwitter, Flickr, LinkedIn, Delicious and Youtube 

In addition, the Media and External Relations Section facilitates individual interviews with specialists and experts on different programmes in different languages including: English, French, Arabic, German, Swahili, Dutch, Italian and many Ethiopian local languages. We also organise media round tables with senior staff and programme specialists, respective government officials and partners on different topics affecting women and children.

Regular media field visits will continue to be organised to visit UNICEF-supported project sites in Addis Ababa as well as in the regions.

We wish to thank those who were able to join us and look forward to our continuous collaboration in 2015 and beyond.

Investing in learning from a child’s very earliest days critical to have a good start in life – Hannah Godefa

(L-R) UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, Hannah Godefa, UNICEF national Ambassador to Ethiopia and Nobel Laureate Economist Professor James Heckman

Early childhood care and education is the first stage of lifelong learning and development. It lays the necessary foundation for building higher-level cognitive and non-cognitive skills and has the potential of breaking down inequity in learning from the beginning by leveraging the tremendous capacity of early brain development and function. Most importantly, it can have a serious impact on the education of adolescent girls later on in life.

That’s why I was honoured to share a panel on the importance of early childhood education and care with UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and Nobel Laureate Economist Professor James Heckman at the World Education Forum from May 19-22 in Incheon, South Korea. For me, learning started when I was a baby. I know this because I know my parents – and education has always been their number one priority.

Even before I was old enough for kindergarten, my father and I frequently went to the library together to read. My parents were still recent immigrants in Canada, where we live. At the library, there were literacy and support programmes. I remember that I loved the maps and photographs in geography books – especially pop up books with pieces I could touch.

My parents encouraged my interest and they sacrificed a lot so I would have a good education. I have no doubt that these early experiences formed my interest in books and the world and set me on my current path as a student and an advocate for education.

Wash Program, Shebedino Woreda, AwassaI know from my own journey that there is a direct connection between what a child learns early in life and what happens later. As an advocate for adolescent girls, I have travelled a lot. I have met girls my age and younger who are mothers. For very young mothers, it is incredibly important that they have knowledge, resources, programmes and support to help them provide their children with a good start in life. If we support these young mothers, we are also providing their babies with a fair chance to grow into young people and adults who can make the world a better place.

I think it is up to youth advocates like me – advocates who see the benefits of a strong early start in life – to speak about the issue.

Unfortunately, one of the reasons we are discussing this topic today is because not all children have access to early learning and care. Most of the children who go to pre-primary school live in more wealthy countries. In low-income countries, pre-primary enrollment ratios are only 19 per cent.These disparities in early childhood learning between wealthy and poor are not fair.

Over time, they also compound and the children who miss out early face ever greater challenges as they get older. Investing in learning from a child’s very earliest days is one of the best ways we have to make sure that all children – no matter where they live or who their parents are – have a good start in life.

Many of the individuals gathered at the World Education Forum for important discussions about investment in education and the Sustainable Development Goals. I came to the Forum to ask all to start early – to start investing and prioritizing learning for all children from the very earliest days of their lives. I can tell you from my personal experience: Those very first learning experiences make all the difference – they can change a girl’s life.